Yesterday I read the post of a fellow traveller on the pain journey. The writer wrote that feeling pain made him feel weak and that he felt alone because he couldn’t tell anyone in his life what he is experiencing. Those two statements rang true with me and caused my heart to hurt for him.
Admitting you feel pain does not make you weak. Admitting this is the only way you can get help. You need to tell your doctor about the nature of your pain – where you feel it and the intensity – so he/she is able to thoroughly assess you and give you the care you need. If your general/primary practitioner is not able to treat you effectively then he/she can refer you to the specialist(s) with the right skills to find the cause of your pain and design a treatment plan for you. I’ll be the first to admit all of this may not happen overnight, but it won’t happen at all if you don’t tell your doctor.
I also remember feeling alone. I created much of my loneliness. I refused to tell my friends and family about the severity of my pain and how it was limiting my ability to care for myself. Because I couldn’t admit I needed help they couldn’t help me or support me. I was afraid to tell them because I was afraid to appear weak. My fear and stubbornness isolated me and without the support of my friends and family I did get weak – physically and mentally.
The writer spoke of his struggle to act normal and to pretend he wasn’t feeling pain. I understand the need to appear ‘normal’. For a while I was good at pretending that I was coping well – there are moments when I still pretend as a way of holding on to my independence – but the pretense is exhausting. Trying to cope with the pain and inability to live life normally is psychologically painful. Opening up to the people in your life can ease the pain. But if opening up to the people in your life feels unsafe, try to find a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, or spiritual advisor with whom you can be comfortable sharing your feelings and fears. I’m lucky to have friends, family and a wonderful mental health group I can lean on. Without them I don’t know what I would do.
When the pain makes it difficult to interact try not to feel bad, and definitely don’t feel weak. Interacting with others for long periods when you feel pain IS HARD. It’s hard to be present with anyone when your mind is busy fighting to suppress the loud messages your body is frantically screaming out to get attention. The people who care about you will understand when you’ve reach your physical and psychological limits. If someone makes no effort to understand or makes you feel bad then maybe you should re-evaluate the role they play in your life because someone who cares about you will support what you need.
The writer has since taken down his blog. Before removing it he did thank me for the comment I posted. I hope that my comment of support stays with him and that he is able – sooner than later – to reach out for help.
I’m happy to report that the writer who inspired this post did not remove is site. He responded to this post in the comments below. I think it’s so important for everyone coping with chronic pain to have a support system even if a part of it resides in a virtual community.
James Taylor & Carole King – You’ve Got a Friend